Since I started to study nutrition, I have been introduced to the world of prebiotics and probiotics. Quite frankly, I had no idea about it! I had no idea that there are millions of bacteria in the stomach that interact directly with the digestive and immune system. What?! How did I miss something this important all these years of my life? When I was first introduced to prebiotics and probiotics at the start of last semester, everyone else in my class seemed to have heard about them or the benefits of consuming them on a regular basis. I quickly learned that although I had never used the term "probiotic" before, there were a variety of different foods I was already eating in my diet that contained "pre" and "pro" biotics. Some of these foods are: yogurt, kimchi (two things I love dearly), sour cream, sauerkraut and miso soup. I then started to hear about all the other great fermented foods that I have never heard of, such as kambutcha and kefir. Before we go any further lets talk about what kefir is.
Kefir is a cultured milk product similar to a drinkable yogurt. It's made from little grains of gelatinous particles that are a combination of good bacteria and yeast. Kefir is a probiotic which means that it has tons of good bacteria that contribute to a healthy gut flora. The probiotics we eat, either in a food or supplement form, need to be fed; this is where prebiotics come in. Prebiotics (artichokes, dandelion greens, garlic, onions, asparagus, bananas, etc.) are the fibers in food that feed the good bacteria in the stomach, which in turn improves health.
Now that we have that out of the way, lets talk about the benefits of drinking this fermented milk and what it tastes like.
What does kefir taste like?
In my personal opinion, kefir tastes like a drinkable sour yogurt. A lot of people I know like to drink it straight, but for myself, I prefer to use it in smoothies (with a little honey to sweeten) or to pour it over fruit in the mornings.
How much kefir should I drink?
Everyone's body is different, so you are better off to start slowly. "You can drink about a cup a day or more if you’d like. Just go slow in the beginning as you get use to it. Second fermenting does make it stronger and add more probiotics."- Donna Schwenk
How to make kefir:
Making kefir is easy! Once you have your grains, all you need is a jar and some milk. Simply add one cup of milk for every few grains you have and let it ferment for about 24 hours on your counter. When it is ready to be consumed, strain the kefir grains from the milk and repeat. If you are not wanting to use your kefir right away, you can store it in the fridge for up to a week.
According to www.kefir.com, "time and temperature are two important factors that determine how thick and tasty your kefir will be. In the warmer months kefir may be ready to drink in 18 hours. If you let it sit out too long at room temperature, it will become thick and eventually start turning into cheese and whey. If your kefir is 'lumpy' and too sour, you are definitely leaving it out too long."
If you are really interested in learning more about how to make kefir yourself, this video (Donna Schwenk's video - How to make Kefir) was really helpful and informative.
What are the benefits of Kefir?
The active yeast and bacteria in kefir aids digestion, keeps the colon environment clean and happy, and provides immune boosting properties. Kefir contains over 30 different types of good bacteria that protect the lining of the stomach and kefir can destroy bad bacteria such as salmonella. It prevents gas and bloating and can be used to help with diarrhea or constipation. It aids by completely digesting foods that, when not fully digested, can trigger food allergies. Kefir can also help improve skin, aid in preventing yeast infections, and improve sleep.
Here's what my kefir grains look like. :)
So there you have it. Now you can start improving your healthy gut bacteria by drinking kefir! :)